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Northern Pass: NH Sen. Shaheen presses for details

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 08. 2012 10:21PM

The Department of Energy will give Northern Pass an opportunity to review environmental analysis prior to a public release of the documents, according to federal officials.

'The Department of Energy commonly shares ... those portions of the DOE's draft documents that describe the proposed route, construction details, and other factual elements of the applicant's proposal,' Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, wrote in response to a query from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

'DOE does this in order to ensure that it accurately describes such facts in the (environmental impact statement),' Hoffman said, adding: 'It is DOE - not the applicant - that ultimately approves these portions of the EIS, just as DOE independently evaluates and is responsible for all portions of the EIS.'

Shaheen had pressed the department for information about public response to the $1.1 billion project and how officials will deal with the utility's presidential permit request.

'DOE recognizes that some observers have expressed concern about the potential environmental effects of the proposed project and reasonable alternatives and expects that consideration of those effects will be an important element of the department's public interest determination,' Hoffman wrote Shaheen last month.

Hoffman noted that the DOE's public interest determination will look at the project's impact on scenery and wildlife as well as on electricity reliability on the New England grid.

Shaheen also wrote she wanted to know more about how federal officials will determine 'public interest.'

'This process must include sufficient opportunity for all stakeholders, especial private citizens affected by the project, to express views and obtain timely updates about the status of the project,' Shaheen wrote.

In 2010, Shaheen raised concerns about the hiring of Bedford-based Normandeau Associates to do the environmental impact statement, noting the company had ties to Northeast Utilities, which is proposing the project. SE Group was then chosen to complete the EIS.

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